The Aligned Time Method is a whole-person, time management system to help you become powerfully productive without ever feeling overwhelmed. At the heart of the Aligned Time Method is the Aligned Time Journal, a workspace where you can plan your goals and then align your hours and days to make progress on what matters to you.
When discussing the Aligned Time Journal with people, I often hear that they don’t want to switch over from their existing to-do list and calendar to the Aligned Time Journal.
To them, I reply, “You don’t have to!” In fact, the Aligned Time Journal seamlessly integrates with every existing to-do list and calendar system that you already use.
If you are looking for time management tips, it’s very likely that you are an “ideas person.” Ideas likely pop into your head while you are going about your day: in the shower, on your walk, while doing morning pages, or simply “out of nowhere.” And this is before ideas, tasks, and to-dos come rolling out of meetings, conversations, and emails!
The best (and worst) thing about being an “ideas person” is that you will soon discover that there are way more ideas than there is time to pursue them. This is how you end up racing against the clock trying to-do too many things, for too many people, and making very little progress on what matters to you. And then you have that terrible feeling, that no matter how hard you try, it just isn’t enough.
The to-do list is a great place to capture those ideas as they occur! As long as you aren’t holding yourself to-doing something with all those ideas, then you can leverage the to-do list as a powerful staging area! If you don’t have a to-do list, on the other hand, some of those great ideas will inevitably be lost.
I personally use Asana as my task management (and to-do list) solution. I used to use Omni Focus, which I loved, but it’s not built for teams. When I started working on an ongoing basis with virtual assistants, graphic designers, and others, it became necessary for me to delegate tasks and responsibilities to other people.
Asana lets you delegate tasks to members of your team and then chat inside the tasks to answer questions, add needed attachments, and negotiate due dates.
There are other tools that do this, too, of course! And there are other characteristics that you might care more about, such as whether it has a Kanban board option (Asana does, and many others do as well).
As always, the best time management app, is the one that works for you.
You can! And many, many very productive people do! In fact, I have a Moleskine notebook that I use specifically to capture the to-dos that emerge from meetings and other work that I use when I don’t want to stop and open Asana and get distracted. But then, as soon as I can, I add those tasks to Asana. Why? Because I don’t want to write and re-write a giant list of active tasks.
There are people who claim that the writing and re-writing process IS THE CORNERSTONE of their process, but I don’t like all that drama. Plus, I want there to be a way to put a task on pause and make it go away until I bring it back, without the potential of losing the task. That’s easier with an app than it is with paper and pencil.
There is another kind of daily to-do that I manage in a completely different way. These are daily habits that I’m trying to form like drinking more water, checking my budget every day, texting a friend I’ve gotten out of the habit of texting, or meditating every day. These tasks repeat daily and don’t take a lot of time, so I don’t want them cluttering up or getting lost in Asana. As such, I handle them through the Done App.
It works like this: You set up a habit. You can add as little or as much detail as you like. You tell it how many times you want to-do that task each day.
Here is my entry for “Check YNAB” which is the budgeting software I use. My goal is to check it every day, usually in the morning, so I know where things stand before I’m tempted to roll on over to Amazon and buy things.
You assign it a color, set a reminder (I have this one set to remind me at 6:30 AM so I have an hour to drink coffee, but it’s done before the kids are up distracting me.
Now the habit can be seen on the main screen.
As your to-do list rolls along collecting tasks, you will soon realize there are more things that you could do than time with which to do them.
This is where the Aligned Time Journal comes in.
The Aligned Time Journal helps you prioritize, filter, and let go of tasks and to-dos. When you set your 90-day goals, you did it with full knowledge that it would force you to do some things and not others! When you consider a task, you’ll ask:
If the answer to these two questions is “No, It doesn’t match my goals and I won’t go to jail if I don’t do it,” then LET. IT. GO.
Delegate it if you must, put it on long-term pause, or just plain delete it.
Eventually, you’ll arrive at the place where you have so many great ideas and opportunities that are aligned with your goals, that you can’t even do all of them!
This is where you tighten your belt even more and add this additional question:
3. Is this a high leverage, GREAT opportunity worthy of my extremely limited brain space and time?
No? Delegate, pause, delete.
To capture details about my great ideas, I use Apple Notes. This is where I would put:
Apple notes is nice because it integrates with iCloud automatically, so all the notes show up on your phone and Mac (assuming you use Apple products). You can add all kinds of info, like images, links, text, text as bullets, drawings, etc. It’s handy and versatile and already installed! WIN-WIN-WIN
I honestly don’t know how people survive without a carefully maintained calendar. There are times when what I’m doing simplifies to the point where I don’t have to keep a to-do list as carefully…but it’s been 10 years since I’ve had an incomplete calendar!
I, like you probably, use Google Calendar.
I use calendaring in two important ways: appointments and time blocking.
First, I use it to manage my appointments. Whether I am meeting with a client or student, seeing a doctor, or having lunch with my husband, there’s a calendar invite. If there’s a location or a zoom link, it’s in the calendar invite. And if there’s a need to reschedule, you’ll likely hear about it first because the calendar invite moves.
The most important reason for this is that I never have to remember a meeting. I just do what my calendar tells me to do! If I had to remember all the meetings I had scheduled in a particular day and search through emails looking for links and phone numbers and agendas that’s all I would do every day.
Nor do I want to!
I am intentional when I set up my calendar, I maintain it meticulously, and then I do what I said I would do at the time I arranged to do it.
Note: IT IS VERY EASY for a calendar to get out of hand and take on a life of its own! Especially if you have a job that involves a lot of meetings, client work, or collaborations. This is where time blocking comes in.
A time block is a calendar “invite” that you use to do tasks. Sometimes the time blocks I need are for boring, monotonous tasks that simply need to get done. Examples include taxes, letters of recommendation, invoicing, budgeting and paperwork. I usually block this time in the afternoons when I’m functional but not creative or hyper-efficient.
Other times, I block time for creative, in-depth work. For example, if I have a presentation to prepare, I might choose to block the first two hours of my day when I’m most creative. This is critical because if I don’t block it one of two things will happen:
On this fictional calendar, I’m pretending it’s Monday. This means that there’s a task block on Monday, but not on any future day. This is because, other than a block to protect my creative time, the rest of my time blocking is done when I’m doing my daily Aligned Time Journal planning in the morning.
I want to say that time blocking can get OUT OF CONTROL. Many people say that you should block every single minute of every single day.
“Give every minute a job!” they say.
To which I say “Nope.”
I LOVE seeing free time on my calendar and having choice about what to do, including the choice to do NOTHING.
I’ve seen many calendar examples in time blocking blogs where there are 15 minutes to “jog to coffee,” 30 minutes for a “quick lunch” and 20 minutes to “listen to NPR while straightening the house” and I’m thinking…
“Who wants to live like that?!?”
Actually, all I’m really saying is that I DO NOT want to live like that.
All of the tools I use can be instruments of overwhelm when used without care.
And yet, all of them can be used with balance and compassion to help you create the life you WANT.
I’ve designed the Aligned Time Journal to help those of us who DO NOT strive to be productivity robots to get a lot done…while enjoying our lives!
Amanda Crowell, PhD is a cognitive psychologist obsessed with how people make change. She is best known for translating cutting edge research into practical strategies that can be used right away.